September 2006


The Parade

It’s an interesting question to ask: What can you say about a country after watching it celebrate its Independence Day ?

My comparison is not perfect for I can only compare the Independence Day parade of Bloomington, Indiana, USA to the one I watched in Yerevan today. Germany lacks an Independence Day that it celebrates (The closest thing is “Reunification Day,” which in my experience is pretty much ignored), and although I was once in Canada for its Independence Day, my father and I did not participate in any of the local activities.

The last Independence Day parade that I saw in the States was Bloomington’s this past summer. It lasted about an hour or hour and a half and consisted of some police officers, some fire trucks, and lots of community floats celebrating everything from politics to the animal shelter and more. It was small scale—most people in attendance at the parade knew at least one or two of the people marching. There was a lot of interaction between the marchers and those of us attending the parade. I walked away from the parade with candy from multiple organizations, fliers from several political candidates, and thirst that was quenched down at the end of the block at Uncle E’s Bar.

So it was this image of a parade that I found myself in Hanrapetutyan Square waiting for Yerevan’s parade to start.

How wrong I was. The square was ringed with police—and in fact we were not allowed within a meter or two of the barrier for the duration. I arrived at 9:30 having been told that the parade would start at 10. In truth it didn’t really start until 11, at which point the square filled with the Armenian Army. The soldiers were asked a question by (I think) the president, one squad at a time, and then the army marched past the review stand—one of which I presume was filled with foreign representatives, the center with political and religious figures, and the remaining stand dignitaries of undetermined status.

Once the soldiers were finished, there were flyovers by planes and helicopters, and then the tanks started rolling. And rolling. Then there were missiles, troop transports, and other things I couldn’t identify. A lot of stuff rolled across the square—and then it was over.

There wasn’t anything that made the parade feel like something by and for the locals, rather it was more like a review to warn Turkey and Azerbaijan that they shouldn’t attempt an invasion of Armenia. I can’t say that I was disappointed; it was just different from what I expected in an Independence Day Parade.

Really, the only thing that this parade had in common with the parade in Bloomington, was that at the end, I was thirsty. I paid a huge sum—250 dram—for a half liter of Coke. Close to my hotel, in a supermarket, I paid 200 dram for 1,5 liter of water. Prices are high in the city center.

9 comments to The Parade

  • It sounds like the only thing missing was a statue of Lenin.

    This makes me think Armenia is having trouble getting over its Soviet past.

  • MT

    Wow. Sounds interesting and definitely beyond the American experience. Of course, I don’t do 4th of July parades … just Mardi Gras ones. I’m betting that you didn’t see any boobies in this parade. 😀

  • MT

    I miss my Adam fix. When are you getting back anyways?????

  • If you are awake right now, I am back in Germany. I touched down in Germany last night at 10:34, parked at the gate at 10:40ish, and was on the train platform at 10:55–seven minutes early for the 23:02 S-bahn to the city.

    I’ve got tons to talk about.


  • B.

    A soviet past is hard to escape I think. And in a weird way citizens seem to be comforted by the rules, restraints & structure. It lends a feeling of safety… like you’re being taken care of even if you don’t always want it.

  • Armenia actually has a cold war in progress on its eastern front–the cease fire has been in place since 1994 but there has been no resolution. The military is still defending a piece of historic lands.

    As for escaping the soviet past, they are trying to escape it, but Armenia has had to fight a war, just after it suffered an earthquake.

    Based on casual observation, the rule of law in Armenia is rather weak. And the police, at least on Independence Day, seemed to be a bunch of assholes.

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  • […] Armenia’s Independence Day Parade […]

  • […] year when I planned my trip to Armenia, I intentionally planned to be there during the Armenian Independence Day celebrations so that I could be a part of the fun and games—and it was certainly different. This […]